COMPTON, Calif. - Marion "Suge" Knight used to be one of the most feared names in the music industry, but lately he has become known as more of a troublemaker than a hitmaker.
It's been nearly a decade since the burly co-founder of Death Row Records has led a record label, yet the former rap music mogul has made his presence felt in ways that are uncomfortable to some and have been hazardous to his health.
Knight has been shot twice since he was grazed by a bullet in the 1996 attack that killed one of his superstar rappers, Tupac Shakur. Knight's mortality was again on display this week when he was hospitalized for more than a day after pleading not guilty to murder, attempted murder and hit-and-run charges.
The 49-year-old has been a defendant in many court cases, but none as serious as the one that now keeps him in a Los Angeles jail. Knight is charged with striking two men with his truck in Compton on Jan. 29, fatally injuring his friend and seriously injuring the other.
Authorities suspect Knight intentionally hit the men, but his attorneys have said their client was being attacked and was trying to flee.
Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Barnes said at a court hearing on Monday that she intends to introduce a "very large stack of uncharged crimes" at an upcoming hearing, which will again bring Knight's history to the forefront. He will remain held without bail until his next court appearance on March 20.
Despite his fearsome reputation, his stature in the rap world has diminished considerably since the days his label released hits by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Shakur and other popular rappers.
"I think in the music industry, people don't really view him as much of anything now," said Alex Gale, a senior editor at Billboard magazine. "He hasn't really done anything of relevance in a while."
Gale said many in the industry are probably reluctant to do business with Knight, since they've heard stories about his heavy-handed tactics than the general public has.
Rap music has evolved since Knight's heyday, Gale said, which is another factor in why he is no longer a player in the business.
Knight's attorney, David Kenner, said his client continues to work in the music industry, but did not know any specific acts he represented. Mark Blankenship, president of Everlert Entertainment, attended Knight's court appearance on Monday and said his company had been working with the former mogul on music and movie projects but declined to offer specifics. Blankenship said the company was prepared to post Knight's bail if a judge reverses a previous order keeping Knight behind bars.
Some feel that Knight's reputation is overblown.
"I think it's all a big myth," said hip-hop producer Mannie Fresh.
Fresh met Knight at a bar at the BET Awards several years ago and he recalled that no one was getting a drink because they were afraid of approaching Knight. "When I met him, the dude was very nice," Fresh said Saturday, recalling that Knight wasn't as physically imposing as he expected. "He was like nice to meet you and I love your music. I was like scratching my head."
Fresh said the encounter left him with a different impression of Knight than the conventional one. "I think he just created something."
Knight does have a history of court cases and disputes that have placed him behind bars and in danger.
He went to prison for five years on a probation violation after Shakur was killed, and he has been jailed several times since then. He's also been shot twice, once in Miami in 2005 and again in September while at a West Hollywood nightclub. Knight developed a blood clot after the recent shooting.
"People are tired of him," said Greg Kading, a retired Los Angeles police detective who investigated Knight for racketeering. "He brings too much negative drama. "Nobody wants to deal with him."
Kading, who also investigated the killing of East Coast rapper Biggie Smalls, said many of Knight's recent problems have arisen because he believes he's owed money from his Death Row Record days.
"Anytime anything rap related happens in Los Angeles, Suge Knight is going to claim he has some kind of connection or oversight of it," Kading said. He believes Knight is responsible for Smalls' killing and detailed his theory in his 2011 book, "Murder Rap."
Knight derived his power during the heyday of Death Row records in part based on his reputation, but also because he had an association with the Mob Piru Crips street gang, Kading said. Many of his associates have been killed or no longer support Knight, Kading said.
Gale, the magazine editor, said despite Knight's many problems, he still commands interest because he created something new in the music industry with Death Row Records.
Knight "inspired many, many other entrepreneurs," Gale said, and he "blazed a lot of trails for the entrepreneurial spirit that prevails in hip-hop to this day."
Sales for Death Row artists were phenomenal for an independent label, Gale said.
"Since then, that's the reason he gets attention."
AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen contributed to this report.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP